Looking into the Future of DSpace and Fedora

The 2013 DuraSpace Sponsors Summit Meeting Report

Winchester, MA  Earlier this month DuraSpace hosted a 2-day Sponsor Summit Meeting for more than 60 sponsors from 54 organizations in Baltimore to "move the needle" towards a digital future that meets shared needs through investment in DSpace and Fedora. Meeting materials are available here:
 
Summit Overview: http://bit.ly/YcEri5
Presentation slides:  http://slidesha.re/XsWryN  
Agenda and Attendees: http://bit.ly/YcE4Ej

The meeting began with a reminder that the DuraSpace mission goes beyond the development of DSpace and Fedora–it is about a larger commitment to our shared digital future. DuraSpace provides stewardship for open source projects and develops innovative services used by the community, but is not solely a software development organization. DuraSpace board president James Hilton offered an ecosystem diagram mapping out a "digital preservation stack" that included initiatives, organizations, consortia and code in four layers–access repositories, preservation repositories, DPN (Digital Preservation Network) backbone, and code–to illustrate where DuraSpace fits in. 

DuraSpace plays a key role in supporting the building blocks–successful open source projects–of the emerging digital preservation ecosystem. Investment in DuraSpace supports the organization's contribution towards building community capacity for providing long term access and preservation of digital data.

"Without the stack there is no Digital Preservation Network," Hilton explained, "DPN needs repositories. Is the value proposition worth it to the DSpace and Fedora communities,"?

Michele Kimpton, Chief Executive Officer and Jonathan Markow, Chief Community Strategist, followed up with the history and current state of financial support for DSpace and Fedora. They made the case for developing collaborative community investment strategies to reinvigorate DSpace and Fedora development beyond what DuraSpace can provide. Kimpton went on to debunk five myths about what the DuraSpace organization is and does.

• Myth 1: DuraSpace has teams of developers working on DSpace and Fedora.

Reality: DuraSpace provides leadership and coordination for software development but does not do the actual development. A distributed volunteer team of developers from several institutions contribute the code for DSpace and Fedora releases.

• Myth 2: DuraSpace is funded by the Moore Foundation and others.

Reality: While DuraSpace has received generous support from the Moore Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Library of Congress and the Sloan Foundation, these foundations do not support the ongoing maintenance, improvement and management of DSpace or Fedora.

• Myth 3: DuraSpace is DSpace on Fedora.

Reality: DuraSpace is an organization providing support for DSpace and Fedora open source software development. The organization is not a piece of software and currently there are no plans to merge the two platforms.

• Myth 4: Our sponsorship dollars are funding DuraCloud.

Reality: DuraCloud is funded by revenues from the sale of the DuraCloud service and some specifically designated grants. Sponsorship dollars support DSpace and Fedora platforms solely.

• Myth 5: Bringing on more projects reduces effort on existing projects.

Reality: New projects pay their own way to be part of the DuraSpace organization. All revenue collected by and for new projects is used for the support of those projects. Sponsorship dollars do not support new projects.

Jonathan Markow reminded the group,"Each of you owns the Fedora and DSpace code to the degree you participate in developing and utilizing the open source software. You all own Fedora and DSpace."  

At the end of this session the group was urged to put a timeframe on the process for moving forward. Sayeed Choudhury, Johns Hopkins University, said, "There is urgency. Data is being destroyed right now." While scientific integrity has widespread support, technology and resources to preserve data and other scholarly assets in repositories are often lacking.

Governance

The need for new community governance models for the DSpace and Fedora projects was generally acknowledged. The aim of improved project governance is to balance raising the funds required for ongoing software development from institutions that have the ability to provide resources with the needs of institutions that rely on the software to operate repositories, regardless of their ability to provide funds. Currently 93% of all known institutions using DSpace or Fedora are "free riders"– those who do not contribute towards sponsorship or contribute code to either project. To engage those who have not yet become sponsors effective governance solutions that include processes for broad communication, project sustainability, accountability and a clear direction for the projects will be reviewed by DSpace and Fedora communities. The goal of new governance models is to fully integrate the DSpace and Fedora communities into the process actively "owning" the most widely-used repository platforms in the world. 

What's next for Fedora?

Last summer a group of Fedora community stakeholders began talking about how they might come together to make long overdue changes to the 10-year-old Fedora platform. Functionally and technically the existing code could not meet emerging use cases. The "community-managed projects" concept was discussed and as a result several stakeholders came to DuraSpace to talk about making significant contributions to improving Fedora right away. Issues around performance, fault tolerance and scalability; complexity, updating the aging code base and how to engage a larger pool of active developers are currently being addressed by the "Fedora Futures" team. The team plans to unveil an alpha version of Fedora 4.0 for community testing and feedback at the Open Repositories Conference (OR2013) in July.

The Fedora Futures project plans to engage users and developers at all institutional levels in technical and non-technical tasks. "Fedora Futures is not happening in a dark room," said Rob Cartalano, Columbia University. "We are working to find ways to bring it to the larger community, including establishing a community governance structure."

Fedora stakeholders who were at the Sponsor Summit Meeting decided on the following specific next steps:
 
• The Fedora Futures Steering Group along with sponsor volunteers from the Fedora community will work towards articulating a vision for Fedora, a mission and a governance model
• Look for effective ways to make the case for fulfilling the vision to senior management emphasizing that Fedora fills a critical need
--Fedora is a solution worth investing in; as a group we can figure out what’s needed to make Fedora work; Fedora is under-recognized; if we can make the value proposition clear, resources will follow
--Create a united front for ongoing advocacy
• Figure out how to step-up communications with other sponsors and potential sponsors
• The Fedora Futures Steering Group along with sponsor volunteers will propose a few alternative models for governance to the wider group of sponsors and the Fedora community for consideration

What's next for DSpace?

Following discussions meeting participants representing institutions that were using DSpace decided to collaboratively draft a high-level 3-5 year "vision" for DSpace. The community will be asked to review the new vision statement in the coming months. This non-technical, detailed statement will make the case for the important role DSpace plays within the "ecosystem" of scholarly communications and preservation targeting decision makers who have the ability to earmark funds to support the future of DSpace.

DSpace stakeholders who were at the Sponsor Summit Meeting decided on the following specific next steps:
 
• Develop a compelling high-level vision for DSpace for the next 3-5 years.
--This non-technical, but sufficiently detailed vision statement will be developed to appeal to library directors (or similar) to obtain funding/resources
--This vision will position DSpace within the larger "ecosystem" of scholarly communication and preservation
• A small group will meet in Chicago in the coming months to draft a vision statement to be distributed for broader feedback from Committers, DCAT and the community
• Once a vision statement is in place a "Governing Board"/"Steering Committee" of institutions will be required to execute it. The goal of this group will be to help make the DSpace vision a reality and to find the funding/resources to make it happen
• The "Steering Committee" would likely consist of a mixture of university librarians, repository managers and and technologists.
--Members of the Steering Committee would likely be those who are willing to provide extra funds or resources to apply towards making the vision a reality. Members may also include individuals who are "voted in" by the Community.
• A governance structure will be designed to work in conjunction with DSpace Committers and DCAT.
--David Lewis, Dean of Libraries at IUPUI, Ann Wolpert, Director of Libraries at MIT, and Tyler Walters, Dean of Libraries at Virginia Tech, will develop an initial draft/concept and distribute it for feedback.

Over the next three to six months DuraSpace will work closely with sponsors and communities to develop governance models, a road map and a sustainability strategy for each project. DuraSpace anticipates bringing groups of stakeholders together in the coming months to begin this work. If you would like to be involved in either of these efforts for DSpace or Fedora please contact Michele Kimpton [mkimpton@duraspace.org] or Jonathan Markow [jjmarkow@duraspace.org].

About DuraSpace

DuraSpace is an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization committed to providing leadership and innovation for open technologies that promote durable, persistent access to digital data. We collaborate with academic, scientific, cultural, and technology communities by supporting projects and creating services to help ensure that current and future generations have access to our collective digital heritage. We foster strategic collaborations to incubate and sustain open source software projects that include DSpace and Fedora repository software. DuraSpace also offers the DuraCloud service, an easy way to archive, share and manage content in the cloud, and DSpaceDirect, a hosted DSpace solution. More information is available at DuraSpace.org.

 

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